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Sunday, April 18, 2010

My Refrigerator Solar Cooker


Would you believe that this meal of perch, green beans, and rice was cooked entirely using the sun- a free and abundant resource?
Capturing and focusing the rays of the sun and then converting the solar energy to utilize it in cooking- a dream for an extreme frugalista like myself. Why pay the electric or gas company to cook my food when the sun will gladly do it gratis?

I made a solar cooker a week ago Thursday, and since then have tested it cooking an egg, then used it to cook red lentil soup, the fish meal above, and then finally a cake on Friday. I'm very excited about this solar cooker, even though I won't have room in my new home to take it along. Not to worry, in just a few short weeks, I'll come up with new plans to build a small, collapsible solar cooker that I'll be able to use even in my future yard-less apartment. (The basics are already formulated; I just need to figure out the exact logistics and make it.)

Solar Cooker Types

There are a few basic types of solar cookers out there, each utilizing different methods of using the sun to cook instead of gas or electricity.
Box Cookers- These use insulated boxes with clear coverings (usually glass) to allow sunlight in, but retaining the heat. The inside is usually painted black, as black absorbs heat. Often metal reflectors are used to reflect even more sunlight into the box.
Parabolic Cookers- These use rounded reflectors to concentrate the solar energy into one small point, and are powerful enough to even BBQ food. 
Panel Cookers- These are hybrids of box and parabolic cookers and need a heat trap to keep the heat from escaping.

I was intrigued by a simple way to make a solar cooker out of an old car windshield- but this required a cooking bag, something that is neither cheap nor readily available where I live. Perhaps I'll figure out something similar to this, but with an alternative to the cooking bag, when I move.

My Refrigerator Solar Cooker

I decided instead to use an broken fridge lying around to make a box type cooker, loosely based on a design I'd seen. Refrigerators are already insulated, saving me the work of insulating my cooker.

I lay my refrigerator on its side in my yard. Though painting the inside black would attract more heat, the cost of paint (expensive locally) helped me choose to use heavy aluminum foil reflectors to line the inside instead. (I was prepared to buy this but found rolls of foil being tossed instead- I cleaned it before use, of course.)
Ideally I should have used glass to cover my cooker, but used what I had instead- a reusable clear tablecloth too short to be used for its intended purpose.

Reflectors outside a box cooker help focus even more heat on to the cooker, so I took apart the attached door, and lined what was left with the remaining aluminum foil, to be propped up and used as a reflector.
A few discarded boards and an old black cookie sheet later, I had an oven shelf and my solar cooker was finished.

Thus far, my solar cooker cost me nothing.
I needed to buy one last piece of equipment, and that was a black pot with a glass cover. I bought a relatively cheap one with a gift card I received as a present. If I would have owned a black pot with a cover, my cooker would have cost me nothing. Because I didn't, I needed to buy one, but fortunately, I didn't need to lay out any money for this either.

Testing My Solar Cooker

On a cloudy day, I boiled an egg in a few hours.
Next test was making red lentil soup with potatoes and carrots. I started this too late in the afternoon on a cloudy day, but still managed to make delicious soup by sundown.

My mom visited and pointed out that my cooker was not acting so efficiently (who knew that I'd need to reapply the PV=nRT formula learned in physics class, as well as other physics rules to my cooking?) and advised that I add a few more reflectors and angle them outward instead of downward. (Ideally I should be using a much smaller cooker, as bigger cookers take more energy to heat (duh!))
Once I added the other reflectors, I was able to cook much quicker and made both the above rice and fish meal, and even cake in just 2 hours!

 

I love my solar cooker.
I love being able to cook without having to pay a cent.
I love not needing to heat my home to cook my food.
I love not paying for something that can be done for free (my motto).

Yes, I won't be able to take this with me when I move to an apartment with no yard, but don't worry- I'm building a new one. A collapsible one that can be used by people living in apartments with no yard. Yes, it'll be smaller, but it'll work even better then!
Don't worry, I'll be sure to share exact plans and pictures.

In the meantime, I'm using my solar cooker every day (and having guilt trips when I actually use the stove to cook!), enjoying our wonderful, sun baked food.


I use the sun to benefit me by:
Line Drying Clothes
Using the Sun For Light
Using the Sun to Cook!

How do you use the sun to benefit you?


This is part of Creative Jewish Mom's Craft Schooling Sunday and the Festival of Frugality over at BeatingBroke.com and Couponomic Stimulus Package.

1 comment:

  1. Hey!! We tried building a solar cooker 2 years ago with the kids for a summer project. Used a pizza box. Not big enough really to cook more than some s'mores but tonnes of fun and we learned about people in Africa, India and China using them.... No firewood needed... Helps save forests and stop deforestation!

    Did you ever build one for your apt?? I'd love to see it! I'd love to make another one that I could actually cook a cake in as well!

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